The Biden administration is pursuing a deal to win China's renewed cooperation fighting the fentanyl crisis by trading something that Beijing has demanded: lifting sanctions on a Chinese police forensics institute suspected of participating in human-rights abuses, the Wall Street Journal reports. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during meetings in Beijing last month proposed setting up a new working group with China to try to resuscitate stalled talks on combating fentanyl. Chinese officials, however, stuck to their long-held position that the U.S. must first remove the sanctions on the police institute as a precondition for restarting joint counternarcotics work, sources told the Journal.
Stopping the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. is a Biden administration priority, with the opioid scourge unleashing a wave of deaths across America. U.S. officials see China as having a critical role in that effort. Chinese companies produce chemicals, known as precursors, that are shipped to cartels in Mexico, which use them to produce fentanyl and smuggle it into the U.S. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science had its access to U.S. technology strictly limited three years ago for what the Trump administration said was its role in a campaign of mass surveillance and widespread human-rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs and other minority groups in China’s far western Xinjiang region. China denies the allegations of abuses in Xinjiang, and has told the U.S. that the sanctions are also undermining its ability to access U.S. equipment for counternarcotics work. China maintains the U.S. is seeking to deflect blame for the opioid crisis and that Washington hasn’t done enough to control prescription drugs, choke off domestic demand for illegal ones and raise public awareness of the issue.